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i like your moxie, sassafras!

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Europe 2012 (Cambridge, London, Brussels, Cologne)
color, soft
Hi, everybody!

So, where did we leave off last time? I think I was just about to run off to Europe for a week, so let's start there.
I flew into Heathrow early on a Saturday morning and after a tangle with an absolutely humorless and ridiculously short-tempered Immigration official, I made it onto the bus for Cambridge, where my cousin lives. I spent the weekend with her, her husband, and their two very cuddly kids, and mostly we just curled up and watched the Olympics (while I tried not to weep at how terrible NBC's coverage seemed in comparison to the BBC's). That Saturday was the day that GB won pretty much every gold in the offing, so that was a good day to be watching people compete on levels I can only dream of. (This is what the medals from the London games look like)

There was some weirdness Sunday night with my cousin's mother-in-law, who (just like the last mom-in-law I encountered) loved me while ignoring/dismissing my cousin. What is it about me that makes me catnip for emotionally withholding mothers-in-law? Not to mention that my cousin is as cute as a button and deserves all the love in the world. Grrrr.

ANYWAY, after a lovely Sunday afternoon (she took me to the pub where Watson and Crick were regulars!) and a less lovely Sunday evening with the extended family, I slept well and took the early Monday morning train to London, where I was looking forward to being reunited with the wonderful kate_lear.

Kate very nicely came and got me at the train station and then ran off to work, so I wandered around London, which was full of amusing delights such as this

and this, the Royal Opera House (which is going to be part of the next story I post, I swear, because I have been writing it/plotting it out forever),

and enigel! She and I had a very nice lunch together and chatted about Cabin Pressure (I still need to write my "Arthurrific!" story) and Sherlock and fandom and fic and then I went back to Kate's for a nice home-cooked meal and general giggliness during which we swapped recs for fantastic Sherlock fic and plotted out our next stories (we're each writing a 20K+ story at the moment, so there was some hand-wringing over character-wrangling and plot-clarifying).

Kate took Tuesday off to wander around London with me, just because she's lovely. So we went to a wonderful Beethoven concert at St. Martin

and then had lunch in the delightful Cafe in the Crypt and fangirled from afar at the pianist. There was gelato and location-finding as Kate gave me some London history and pointed out places where my characters might do certain things that I need them to do for this infernal story that makes me feel like Tantalus. We hammered out family details for the John Watson who lives in my head (hello, darling!) and lounged about like complete loafers later that afternoon before we got an early dinner and then went to THE GLOBE

for a production of Henry V starring Jamie Parker!!!

I'd seen Jamie Parker on Broadway in The History Boys, and during that show I could not take my eyes off him. He was even more magnetic here in H5, every inch the warrior-king for the first 9/10 of the play and then a delightfully roguish and perhaps confounded suitor in the last scene. It's an abrupt shift, but he made it work. Kate and I couldn't get tickets for seats, so we were groundlings, which was beyond cool (though hard on the feet, and it didn't help that it was raining). I hadn't realized how small the yard is, or to what extent the actors would include the groundlings in the performance - we were Henry's troops and the soldiers' confidantes and more besides. What an absolutely amazing experience. Jamie Parker, I will line up for your next performance in New York, whatever it is.

On Wednesday, I hugged Kate goodbye and set off for the British Museum, where I reunited with the lovely monkiedude. We went to see the very disappointing Shakespeare exhibit and talked all about Sherlock and fic and then she jetted off, while I stayed behind and saw the very good exhibit on the Horse and did a little shopping for art books. Then off to Brussels on the afternoon train!

I spent my one full day in Brussels with two septuagenarians, wives of my mom's colleagues, because despite my fairly advanced age, my mother cannot stop making play-dates for me (to be fair to her, she treats this as a favor to them, rather than to me, because she cannot fathom how spending time with me would not be the highlight of someone's day, or even life). The ladies and I wandered around Brussels, taking in the Grand Platz

and a sneak peek at some of the many murals adorning the city's walls (oxoniensis, this one's for you)

We hiked up to the cathedral

and then to the museum of art, which included some real beauties, despite its tiny size

It also included some fairly amazing depictions of heaven and hell, or bliss and misery. Here's a detail from a vision of civic prosperity, which indicates that real ladies ride their fish sidesaddle

There was some chocolate (I will refrain from revealing how much, though I will say that my favorite was the chocolate-covered speculoos, a crisp cinnamon biscuit that's somehow half gingersnap and half creamy goodness) and a few frites (nothing special) and this lovely bit of graffiti

and then my mom and I headed to Cologne (properly, Koln).

When we walked out of the train station - by the way, I highly recommend Thalys trains, as they're speedy, on time, and the service in first-class, which was about $2 more expensive than second class, was very good - the first thing we saw was the cathedral

Looks like someone just got cleaned, huh?

It was only a few blocks to our hotel, so we dropped our stuff and started wandering. Despite a map and very willing feet, we ended up not seeing much of what we'd planned, but we had a very nice dinner at a cheap, friendly, good Italian place and walked to the synagogue

and covered a lot of ground in between. The next day, we found a museum doing a very detailed exhibit on paintings of Rama and Sita from the Ramayana (my mom and I bonded over having Lakshmana as our favorite) and we did the wandering thing again, some more. We got into St. Martin (which had been inexplicably closed the day before, surprising even a visiting Irish priest)

which has the only grisaille-type stained-glass rose window I've seen in a major church (it went well with the stripped-down simplicity and beauty of the place)

It was a nice time, but I don't think I'd go back to Brussels or Cologne - I feel like I saw everything I wanted to see.

I was going to talk more, about TV and movies and books and theater, but that will have to wait, as this post is already bursting. How are you all doing?

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It all sounds wonderful! Well, most of it, at least.
she cannot fathom how spending time with me would not be the highlight of someone's day, or even life
Isn't that what moms are for?

The people on the fish—that must be a Bosch painting! Do you know offhand which one? I have a Bosch book, but I think it's on campus rather than at home. Love Bosch.

Brilliant Husband and I visited Cologne some years ago (before Small Child appeared on the scene) for just a day. I remember the cathedral, and a museum very nearby that seemed quite good, but I was perpetually frustrated. I'm that person who reads nearly every card in the museum, but my German is poor and very slow, and I only had a little phrase book and not even a proper dictionary. . . .

When we're not fighting, my mom is my biggest fan. It's very nice.

It is a Bosch painting, though I hadn't realized it, as it was smack in the middle of a Bruegel collection, but it is, as you say, very Bosch-y. I looked it up and it appears to be from the St. Anthony triptych, though that appears to be housed somewhere other than Brussels. So I'm totally confused.

There are two museums very close to the cathedral - one is the design museum and the other is the Roman museum. The one we went to is this one.

Interesting—Wikipedia says, "The painting currently hangs in the Museu Nacional de Arte Antiga, in Lisbon. A copy by a follower of Bosch can be found in the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, and another version in the Prado Museum in Madrid. A third copy of what once was believed to be the original, now labeled by University of Pennsylvania art historian, Larry Silver, as a 16th century copy, is owned by the Barnes Foundation, near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.[1]" Perhaps one of those copies was on loan to the museum where you saw it?

We went to the Roman museum rather than the design museum.

Oh, I love your travelogues! And I love, love the gorgeous design of that stained glass window, OMG. I love stained glass in general, but I've never seen anything quite like that.

Isn't that window lovely? I just wanted to stand where the light flowing through it would fall on me.

Oh how I loved this! Thanks for sharing your events, activities and photographs; I enjoyed every moment of the trip.

signed: tv/ computer / flist traveler these days,

I'm so glad you did! It's always nice to see you around!

Wow, what a brilliant week.

I'm not at all surprised at the immigration officer. They make us feel like we're not welcome to come into the country and my passport states that the Queen expects me to pass without let or hindrance.

You managed to visit some of my favourite places in London. I've been to a number of concerts in St Martins in the Fields, which are always of a high standard, and quite often we eat in the Café in the Crypt, the food is so good.

I'm not a great fan of the Globe, but can imagine how much fun it was seeing Henry V there. We saw Henry IV parts 1 and 2 there a couple of years ago, when Jamie Parker played Prince Hal - he was totally convincing then, changing from layabout prince to powerful king at the end. Then we saw Henry V in Cardiff when the production was on tour before it reached the Globe. After which I was encouraging all my friends to go and see it! As you say, an actor I will go to see again.

Ah, it was partly my fault with the immigration officer, but yes, she was ridiculous.

I was thinking of you when watching Henry V, because I remembered that you'd said you saw the production and thought JP did a fantastic job. I had never been to the Globe before, and it was totally the right show to see there, as well as to be standing for. As achy as my feet were, I think I would have missed out if I'd had a seat.

When I was in London last year, I did one or two concerts at St. Martin and ate at Cafe in the Crypt - a great place for interesting veggie sandwiches and a lovely atmosphere besides. London in general is one of my favorite cities to visit.

Sounds like a wonderful trip! I love London so much! The last couple of times I was there, I stayed at a hotel right across the street from the "Shard"--which was under construction. Is it finished now?

The Shard looks to be finished now, but I can't say for sure. (If you can be here in November, you can meet kate_lear in person and ask her yourself!)

London is a phenomenal city, really suited to my tastes in entertainment. I love being there.

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Brussels more so, though we missed both the city festival and the Carpet of Flowers, which covers the entire Grand Platz with blossoms - we saw the preparations for both. Cologne was undergoing a lot of very noisy and dusty construction work, but parts of it were still very beautiful. St. Martin was the best part, I think.


What a gorgeous looking trip. Thanks so much for sharing ♥

Thank you very much! I had a great time.

Love your photos, but obviously the Tintin mural made me happiest! The artwork makes me really want to visit Brussels - it's often been on a shortlist for a long weekend, but I've never made it there.

How have I completely missed seeing the Olympic rings on the Thames? I must try to see them before the Paralympics are over. I also need to write up a theatre post - I keep meaning to. I don't think I've even mentioned seeing Benedict Cumberbatch doing a reading of Look Back in Anger!

Yay, I'm glad the picture made you happy!

In all honesty, I don't think you'd really need a long weekend to see what you want in Brussels - and you should know that we just missed the annual Carpet of Flowers (where flowers cover the entire Grand Platz) and a Brussels festival (that may or may not be an annual thing - I couldn't get a straight answer from anyone), so August might be the right time to go.

The shot of the Olympic rings is from the back - from the front, you can see the colors. How did you enjoy your Olympic spectatorship? And no, you've been mum on seeing BC!

I'm so glad I went to the Olympics - the modern pentathlon turned out to be a great choice, the weather was perfect that day, the atmosphere amazing. It was special. And this weekend I'm going to see the Paralympics at the Olympic Stadium (an athletics session), so I'm incredibly excited about that. I need to write up my Olympic and theatre going before I forget too many details.

That is fantastic! I hope you enjoyed the Paralympics just as much!

(I made a new post with some more theater - I really like your ratings system.)

It was lovely to see you! And I'm still very proud that we did sight-seeing all day and then stood for the entirety of Henry V. Brussels looks gorgeous, I'm pleased you had a good time (despite the unexpected company for part of it).

I'm very proud of us too! I fully expect to compensate for it by lying around my apartment with you, only getting up to switch out the DVD in the player and perhaps getting more chocolate.

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Ahem, sorry, I got a bit over-excited there, but: I AM from Cologne and unexpectedly seeing our cathedrale pop-up on my f-list is sort of a happy surprise. Even if it seems that you were sadly lacking in local guides who could have shown you the true wonders of it....

I did! And it was pockets of amazing beauty in a sea of construction - I think my visit was just poorly timed, because it seemed like there were cranes and half-finished walls and rubble everywhere. St. Martin was tops in my book.

It is, indeed, pockets of beauty in a sea of ill-conceptualised, ugly buildings from the immediate postwar time. And then there is construction, which oftentimes is caused by people finding new and exciting archaeological sites when all they wanted was simply to dig out a basement....

Groß Sankt Martin (as we call it) is definitely one of my favourite churches because of the lovely spare way they renovated it. And because the saint of headaches always makes me giggle. Did you encounter him?

I did not see the saint of headaches! Too bad - though my favorite has to be St. Jude, patron saint of lost causes.

I've found Germany to be beautiful every city I've been to - I need to plan a proper trip and go back.

It is a rather funny statue: He is clutching his head because someone chopped off the top of it - hence him becoming the saint of headaches. :-)

I am glad you enjoyed your trip to Germany so much!

I see that St-Martin's-in-the-Fields window is just as wonky from the inside as it is fron the outside -- encountering that centre oval lit up after dark recently, I wondered if I was seeing things! (Is it a new commission? It's a long time since I've been that way.)

The last time I was in St Martin's, there were a lot of flowers and decorations because the funeral of a patron/VIP was about to take place. I feel quite sure, though, that the window was like that then (April 2011). I can't find info on the window, however, so I can't be sure.

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